My Childhood Aroma

My winning essay at Power of Pen 8: Mindanao Culinary Culture, Research and Writing Basics. It’s a food writing forum held on May 19, 2018 at Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, Phils. and organized by Stram Events with speakers – Authors Lolita Lacuesta, Ms. Michaela Fenix, Professor Dr. Macario Tiu, Inquirer Editor Ms. Margaux Salcedo and Chef Shariff Pendatun III.

My Childhood Aroma

Paksiw has always been a childhood favourite of mine. Call it my childhood comfort food. My Ilongga grandmother would always indulge me by preparing it with fresh ingredients coming from our farm.

Back then, our day would start with me tagging along to the ‘utlanan’, it’s the river at the border of our farm. There were lots of wild gabi or taro plants on its banks. My grandmother would then cut the gabi roots or ‘takway’ and brought it back home. It’s a childhood experience fresh to me even as the river has changed its form today.

My grandmother used to hang the ‘takway’ in the basket by the ‘pantaw’. It’s a bamboo-floored open space outside of the kitchen. She said hanging the ‘takway’ overnight would prevent it from getting itchy.

Cooking paksiw with ‘takway’ was an easy feat. My grandmother would cook it in a very old, chipped-rimmed, soot-covered eathen pot or ‘kolon’. She would line the bottom of the ‘kolon’ with young mango leaves, put in iba or kamias that she would just reach-pick from our kitchen window. Siling-kulut, fresh whole black pepper, hand-crushed cherry tomatoes, unpelled and crushed ginger, native small cloved garlic hanging by the ‘dapug’ or a raised cooking area in the kitchen that used firewood with open ‘kalan’ or stove to cook food.

Then she’ll top it with fresh moro-moro fish she’d buy from her ‘suki’ every morning. She’ll then put a little ‘tuba’ vinegar and season it with ‘patis’ or fish sauce.

I feel that eating always starts with my nose. The moment the savoury aroma comes out of my grandma’s kitchen, I know my best day has just started.

She would then serve it in a ‘sartin’ bowl along with freshly cooked, fragrant short-grained, pinkish, dinorado rice.
Washing our hands was a must as nobody eats with spoons and fork. Conversation over meal in bare hands usually would be about planning the next meal.

Slow-cooked ‘takway’ is soft and fibery. Sucking soundly the eye of the braised moro-moro was one of the best culinary memories I had with my grandma, bless her soul.

I don’t get to cook this anymore as ‘takway’ is rarely available in the market now.


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